The New Strength Matters Level 2 Testing Criteria

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Kaizen: A Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous, positive improvement.

The goal of the Strength Matters Level 2 Certification is to add another layer of depth to the foundations of both strength, endurance and coaching skills developed at the Level 1 Certification. The emphasis in this certification is not about technique—exceptional technique is a given—but the ability to coach, learn, deliver and apply our system of teaching to others. We feel that the first step to mastering a system is through teaching and inspiring others. This allows you the adaptability, patience and ability to see problems and solutions in totally new ways. We strongly believe that teaching and coaching is the most crucial component of the Strength Matters system. It will ensure you achieve and maintain mastery.

(If you wish to learn more about these tests and challenges, you can read our justification article here)

The Three-Day Testing Overview

The Physical testing that takes place during the three-day Level 2 Certification is going to be a very small component of passing the course. The emphasis will not be solely on the ability to demonstrate solid technique, but the ability to program and coach clients of varying abilities.

Teaching Criteria

Demonstrate Your Ability To Program With A Given Case Study

The weekend will cover our Seven Fundamental Principles of Human Movement in depth, the continuums of movement and learn more about the Ten Characteristics of Athleticism and how it binds these movements together. Candidates will be assessed continuously and required to teach and coach their peers throughout the three days. On day three, candidates will receive a lecture on programming for the Everyday Athlete. Following the lecture, you will each have a specific case study and must produce a suitable program for an individual or group incorporating the principles you have learned throughout the course and previously on the Level 1. This will then be presented back to the group individually.

Physical Testing

Candidates will be assessed on the following three physical tests during the certification to demonstrate that they have progressed from the Level 1 Certification and have successfully applied and implanted our coaching systems on themselves.

In the event of failure, candidates have three months following the certification to send in a video of their successful attempts. Allowances will be made if the candidate is incapable of meeting the standards or conducting a test due to a disability or chronic medical condition.

500m Concept 2 Rowing Test

Candidates can determine their own resistance level.

For Women:

Under 50 2 minutes
50-59 2:05
60 – 69 2:10
Over 69 2:20

 For Men:

Under 50 1:40
50-59 1:45
60-69 1:50
Over 69 2 minutes

The Get-Up Test

One rep only. Tested on one side only. Rep must meet the standards of the technique taught in SMK1. Maximum load of 48kg.


AGE Kettlebell closest to:
Under 50 35% bodyweight
50-65 25% bodyweight
66 or older 20% bodyweight


AGE Kettlebell closest to:
Under 50 50% bodyweight
50-65 35% bodyweight
66 or older 20% bodyweight

The Strength Matters Snatch Test

5/5 OTMEM x 5 (On The Minute, Every Minute)

Five reps, arm change with swing, five reps, put it down. Go on the minute every minute for five rounds. Every rep must be explosive and reach the standards as per SMK1. A pre-swing is allowed before the first snatch, but not between snatches. All ten snatches, pre-swing and arm change should take no longer than 35 seconds.


AGE Under 65kg bodyweight 65kg-85kg bodyweight Over 85kg bodyweight
Under 50 16kg 20kg 20kg
50-65 12kg 16kg 16kg
66 or older 8kg 8kg 8kg


AGE Under 70kg bodyweight 70kg-90kg bodyweight Over 90kg bodyweight
Under 50 28kg 32kg 36kg
50-65 20kg 24kg 28kg
66 or older 16kg 20kg 24kg

**If the candidate has a chronic medical condition or disability that prevents them from putting a heavy kettlebell overhead or if the candidate thinks they are at risk of injury by completing this test, they can opt for the alternative:

SMK2 Swing Test:

The same as SMK1 Swing Test, but with the next heavier kettlebell.

Challenges & Advised Pre-Preparation

During the three-day certification candidates can also expect to participate in the following challenges (injuries, medical conditions and postural defects allowing):

Proper Push-Up Challenge

This challenge will follow an in-depth practical teaching segment on the plank and progressions of the push-up. Candidates adopt the start position and perform one rep every three seconds on the instructors count and continue until failure to perform an acceptable rep.

Start position: Prone with hands off floor. Arms reaching out to the sides. Heels together. Toes tucked under. Spine neutral or slightly flexed at lumbar. Neck neutral and chin tucked in so face is pointing downwards.

One rep: Place hands directly under shoulders with middle fingers pointing straight forwards. Elbows tucked in close to torso. With no spine or hip movement, press up so the elbows fully lock out. Pause at the top for one second then return to the start position, removing hands from floor and reaching arms out to the sides. A straight line must be maintained from heels to shoulders throughout the movement.

The candidate must stop as soon as he/she reaches the stage at which they are unable to perform a proper rep to the announced cadence, or in the event of an instructor telling them to stop. This is not a pass or fail test. To reap the benefits of the certification and participate in the full syllabus a candidate should have a base level of physical preparedness. The following tables display guidelines of minimal rep numbers a candidate should aim for, to demonstrate adequate preparation.


Under 50 5
50-65 3
Over 65 1


Under 50 15
50-65 10
Over 65 5

Pull-Up Challenge

This challenge will follow an in-depth practical teaching segment where the candidate will learn all the progressions and proper techniques of the pull-up, from the inverted row and dead hang to the loaded pull-up.

In Short

Men: Overhand grip. One rep every ten seconds. Sternum to touch bar.

Women: Either one rep as per men’s standards OR flexed arm hang for ten seconds, followed by ten second eccentric rep, followed by 10 second active hang.


Hollow body position: Posterior tilt in pelvis with abs engaged strongly and belly button pulled in (mental focus on the lower back lengthening versus the anterior abdominal region shortening). Toes pointed and ankles plantar-flexed. Quads and glutes are engaged.
Please note: Pelvic posture must be considered. If the pelvis has a natural anterior tilt, a perfect hollow position is almost impossible to achieve. Those with a natural posterior tilt find the hollow position relatively easy. More about this during the course.

Flexed arm hang position: Overhand, underhand or neutral grip at shoulder width (candidate’s choice). Body must be in hollow position with actively engaged torso and legs. Neck must not extend at any time. Top of bar must be clearly below jaw level, ideally at clavicle.

Eccentric rep: Shoulders must remain packed and hollow position must be maintained throughout the body. Neck remains in neutral. Control and a uniform speed must be maintained (no jerking, same descent speed at the top as at the bottom).

Active hang position: Arms locked out and shoulder blades are not allowed to elevate, shoulders remain packed. Hollow position and tension are maintained throughout the body.

Dead hang: Arms locked out. Shoulders unpacked. All muscles relaxed apart from grip and forearms.

Active eccentric pull-up: Ten seconds in flexed arm hang position, ten-second eccentric rep to the instructors count, ten seconds in active hang position.

Proper pull-up: One rep equals hanging on the bar while maintaining active hang position with overhand grip at or just wider than shoulder width. At ten seconds, and every ten seconds thereafter, the candidate will hear the command “GO”. On hearing GO the candidate pulls up and must connect sternum to bar, then lower back to the active hang position, fully locking out the elbows.

This is not a pass or fail test. To reap the benefits of the certification and participate in the full syllabus a candidate should have a base level of physical preparedness. Although the challenge will continue until the last candidate drops off the bar, the following table shows the minimum standards expected, demonstrating adequate preparation.


Under 50 1 or active eccentric pull up
50-65 1 or active eccentric pull up
Over 65 1 or active eccentric pull up modified to five seconds per phase


Under 50 3
50-65 1 or active eccentric pull up
Over 65 1 or active eccentric pull up

Graduation Workout

Finishing the weekend on a high with a pair of off-set kettlebells.

Final Thoughts

Producing these tests and challenges has involved the experience and expertise of several respected professionals including the Strength Matters Senior Instructor team. We have consulted other respected coaches and trialed on several individuals. In the process, we have received valuable arguments and criticisms to which we have considered in depth and adjusted where necessary.

Further Reading:

To learn more about the reasoning behind theses tests and challenges, please read the following blog post, which offers our justifications:

Why We Chose The Level 2 Testing Criteria

The Strength Matters Level 2 Testing Requirements
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The Strength Matters Level 2 Testing Requirements
In today's article, Phil McDougall unveils the Strength Matters Level 2 testing criteria. Discover exactly what you need to learn to pass the certification.
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Strength Matters
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